Monday, January 28, 2013

The Importance of Being Counted


Why it is important to Participate in Ag Census every time ! 

Every five years the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service conducts a national census of agriculture.  Every farmer I meet at times feels that this is an imposition and sees this as an intrusion.  At the same time they will use farming trends seen in census data for their farming operations and use the data to help with local governments they communicate with.

Census data collected helps us understand the changing landscape of agriculture over time.  Some of these measures are hard to extrapolate without conducting the census.  Many of those in government at all levels rely on census data from both agriculture and other industries when they consider appropriations for the farm bill, and other local issues.  It is important then for all farms to participate and be counted so that an accurate picture of the current state of agriculture can be made.  For more information on the Ag census go to the USDA website.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The aftermath looking forward

Take a moment to survey your housing!          

We have just gone through some of the worst weather this fall.  When these events pop up, it is always a good practice to check your poultry housing over carefully for unseen damage that may have occurred.  Look up into attics to see if any rafters or bracing has broken or come loose.  Look at power poles for splitting.  Open electrical boxes for water accumulation indicating a compromised water seal on the supply weatherhead.  On housing that is over ten years old, things may have worked loose in the wind.  The last thing you wish to see is a weakened roof that would collapse under the next storm.

Look closely at the boots on feed bins for leakage.  Clumping feed is a good indicator that water got into the tank somehow.  If possible, allow the tank to empty and then check the tank with a droplight at night.  This may be able to show spots that may be leaking.

With small flock housing, consider "pinning" temporary housing to the ground using spikes made of re-bar or other suitable materials.  Store summer shade fixtures until needed in the spring.

Clear all drainage culverts around poultry housing of any debris before the next storm event.  With proper precaution, a few minutes will help save hours of repair when you really don't wish to make repairs.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Be Ready for Foul Weather

Take an active role in preparation

With the possibility of storms from the south, farmers should check that:

  1. They have adequate levels of fuel in their backup generators, trucks and farm implements.
  2. Spouting and gutters are clear.
  3. Culverts and other road crossings are clear of debris and free flowing.
  4. Drainage and containment structures are clear of any refuse and debris.
  5. Review/check emergency call phone lists, fire extinguishers, flashlights and smoke detectors.

For more information and checklists see:

Please pass this around to those you know.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Feeding and Watering Adjustment for Success
Source: Plasson, inc.
You are What You Eat

With the rising heat and feed costs we look at every way to help conserve feed.  Feed and water waste should be avoided as any spilled feed is an open invitation to pests coming in for a meal.  Darkling beetles and other pests feed off of spilled feed and water spots in bedding before breeding and destroying a wooden structure.

The birds we use for food do not have valves in their esophagus as humans, so they need to tip up their heads as they drink and eat.  Positioning feeder and drinker levels to be at or just above where the neck meets the body is a preferred feeding method.  Be sure that bell-type drinkers are adequately weighted in their ballasts to prevent spillage.  Use a waterer location rotation program with these hanging drinkers to help eliminate wet spots in the litter.
Source: Ziggity, Inc.
 Nipple drinkers should be positioned and adjusted so that birds can reach up to drink.  By doing so, the birds can drink naturally with the water flowing down their throats and without the need for moving with their mouths full of water.  Leveling the system as you move through the house is important to help eliminate and air blockages and "weeping" drinkers.

Fount type drinkers that sit on the floor can be raised using blocks and other supports to help raise the equipment to the proper feeding level.  Having the equipment adjusted as the bird ages ensures that feed and water are properly being delivered.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Heat stress - Putting Ventilation to the TEST

Keeping Cool Takes Work 

When we consider cooling birds, most producers first turn to a fan for help.  Fans do a great job of reducing temperature of a poultry house by using convection to help remove heat that is surrounding the bird.  Birds use the evaporation of water from their respiratory system to help cool their bodies.  Larger comb varieties also cool themselves by circulating blood through their comb and wattles.  Testing the air by using a hygrometer to test temperature depression using ventilation is a simple method to determine the possible effectiveness of using fans.

Two things a caretaker should concern themselves during hot weather.  Keeping the fans running efficiently, and running them long enough to help the birds cool properly.

Proper fan maintenance, includes brushing off shutters and doors to keep them free of any dirt and debris.  This also includes the brushing off of fan blades so that they will "Bite" the air properly to move air through the fan.  Do not attempt to brush off a fan without stopping electrical power to the unit.  Do not forget to brush off the motor, as even sealed motors can cool better when not covered in dust!  While brushing off fans, check belts and pulleys for wear and replace these as soon as possible.  Worn pulleys will actually slow down a fan reducing the volume of air that can be moved.

Lastly, fans should run long enough to bring house temps down long enough for the birds to rest from heat stress.  Consider overshooting house temp by allowing a house to cool to 70 degrees long enough for birds to eat and digest their food.  If done during the cool part of the day, egg production and growth in meat birds should continue even on the weeks of high daily temperatures.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Pastured Poultry & Rotational Grazing

Photo: Peggy Sellers - Perdue Univ.
Pasture Quality & Condition is Important 

I had the chance to visit several pastured poultry farms this week and I was reminded of how this was done in the early 1920's.  Birds were routinely pastured to take advantage of sunlight (vit. D) and the natural grasses they ate.  What is so different between operations of today and yesteryear is that we tend to restrict our birds in one area as we graze.  This creates a host of problems as the grass becomes over-run by the birds and heavy loads of manure accumulate.

Rotational grazing should be just that.  Moving the birds frequently to keep grass in good condition and to help spread out manure loads in a field being grazed.  You should move birds before all the grasses they are bedding on become stomped down.  Supplemental feeding is also important at this time to make sure the birds are receiving all essential nutrients that they are not getting from the grasses they are feeding on.  Clover for example has a high protein content than most grass species.  Therefore the corn in a full feed poultry diet will help compensate and provide the energy component of the birds daily nutritional needs.

By rotation of the pasture, the sun can help sanitize the ground last occupied by the birds.  With frequent rotation, the pastures can recover more quickly and in turn provide more forage opportunities for the birds.  Your pasture after the move of the birds will tell how well you are doing on your pasture management program.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Foot Health in Poultry

Broilers on floor
Photo: NC Extension
Putting your best foot forward                              

Like all farm animals being able to move is very important.  Over the years, foot health has gained interest in meat birds and breeding stock, since if a bird can't walk it can't eat and a dangerous spiral starts if not corrected.

It is important to note that moisture plays a large part in a bird's foot health.  Litter and floor conditions that are too wet begin to erode the skin on the foot pad and can lead to inflammation (bumblefoot) and lameness.  Moisture created by the birds along with water spillage if not managed can create lameness in a flock.  You can test litter moisture by picking up a large handful of litter and squeezing it.  Excessively wet litter will ball up or drip water, and feel sticky to touch.  Add additional litter if possible or stir existing litter to help promote drying.  Adjust ventilation rates to help remove moisture from the house and keep the litter dry.

Remember that litter floors are the environment that the birds live in, including walking and standing.  The litter volumes on floors should be adequate to supply a soft walking surface for the bird.  It also should be deep enough for water absorption from the flock.  All other associated flooring, including slats, perches and other resting devices need to be in good condition to eliminate any foot pad injury.   Good housekeeping of the floor will aid in keeping the flock in good step.